My biggest fear is my health—if I will be around to raise them until they’re grown. My joy is that I get a chance to be with my grandchildren 24/7. They bring a lot of life to me.
– Cassandra Gentry

Friends Karen Gray, 59, and Cassandra Gentry, 68, discuss the challenges they face as grandparents raising grandchildren during the COVID-19 pandemic. They both value the support from fellow grandfamilies, as well as programs such as affordable housing and school lunch delivery. 

Karen: Cassandra, what is your biggest worry and your biggest joy about being a grandparent?

Cassandra: My biggest fear is my health—if I will be around to raise them until they’re grown. My joy is that I get a chance to be with my grandchildren 24/7. They bring a lot of life to me. Without them, I don’t think I would be as vibrant as I am. They show me so much love and I show them so much love.

Karen: What supports do you need to raise your grandchildren?

Cassandra: There’s a lot of things that I need. The first thing that I need would be affordable housing, which is something that the Grandfamilies program that we stay in has given us. We stay in a 50-unit program for grandparents that are raising their grandchildren. So we are like a community that’s able to identify with each other. Support services where they match us with a parent partner and we’re able to get a breather. Maybe you and I would like to go up to Niagara Falls or something. We can send the kids with their parent partner and feel safe. How about you, Karen? What program did we have that was really helpful to you?

Karen: Well, I like the program that they have now, delivering the lunches to the kids. Some of the grandparents cannot go out to the stores to get certain foods for their grandkids.

Cassandra: The support that we get from each other is really helpful. Like if you’re going out, Karen, you say, “Do you need anything?” Or somebody else will say, “I’m going down to Safeway. Do you need something?” So then we only have one person that’s going, instead of all of us going to the store and putting ourselves at risk.

Karen: Do you think about caregiving any differently now?

Cassandra: Oh yeah, because you’re used to getting a break during the day when they go to school. But now, Karen, it’s like all day long, all night, they don’t want to sleep at the right time. They don’t want to get up at the right time. My baby is getting behind her studies because I can’t help her. I don’t think we’re going to go back to normal, but I wonder how are we going to teach our children how to socialize differently. They’re going to be in a different world.

Karen: Right, they are.

Cassandra: But the hardest part is going to be for the grandparents. Older people just don’t like change and that’s the big challenge.

Karen: Everyone will have to change.

The audio-only story can be accessed here

This segment was produced by StoryCorps, a non-profit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world. It was made possible with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and in partnership with Generations United. The participants are members of Generation United’s GRAND Voices Network. In summer 2020, StoryCorps recorded this conversation as part of a project that focused on helping us understand the unique impacts COVID-19 is having on various types of families, including grandfamilies.